Entrepreneurs to pitch ideas

Bailey McClellan, Writer

UW Oshkosh is hosting the Elevator Pitch Contest and the Lucas Spivey and the Mobile Incubator event Oct. 17 at the Music Hall Auditorium to help student entrepreneurs bring their visions to life.

The event, which will be hosted collaboratively by the art department, the Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the UWO management and human resources department, will start with the Elevator Pitch Contest at 6:30 p.m. and end with a presentation by serial entrepreneur Lucas Spivey at 7:30 p.m.

At the Elevator Pitch Contest, each participant will have 90 seconds to pitch their idea to a panel of judges. The winner will receive $1,000 to be used toward their business and earn a guaranteed spot in this year’s Business Model Competition.

Dan Brosman, program manager of Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the contest’s judges will focus on certain criteria to determine the viability of each pitch.

“The biggest thing they’re going to be looking for is what’s the problem, how are you going to solve it and is there a market that’s going to buy this? And they’re also just looking for a great presentation,” Brosman said.

Brosman said the event welcomes spectators and is a good source of inspiration for students interested in entrepreneurship.

“It’s really cool to see these students coming up with these really neat, creative ideas,” Brosman said. “It’s something that maybe can inspire them to pursue as far as becoming an entrepreneur or getting involved with the different programs.”

Brosman said following the contest, Spivey will share his experiences traveling with Mobile Incubator, a reconditioned camper from the 1950s with a contemporary interior design. Spivey will then share his experiences traveling across the United States to discover thriving artists and organizations.

“What he does is he travels around the United States in this mobile incubator,” Brosman said. “And he goes around and he speaks on cultural entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and he helps people, specifically artists, performers, writers, designers, with any business objectives they have and that they want to accomplish.”

According to Brosman, Spivey will then be posted outside of Polk Library to talk to students on Oct. 18 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and again from 2 to 4 p.m.

“It’s really just for students to come in and drop in and say, ‘Hi, what are you doing?’” Brosman said. “They’re going to see this little camper kind of just sat up over by the library, and it’ll be kind of a neat conversation starter, but he’s also willing to meet with people one-on-one with any ideas that they might have specifically within art, design, writing world and possibly help them with getting connected with people he knows.”

Brosman said events like this help students refine their business ideas for bigger contests and serve as a stepping stones for many to bring their ideas to life.

One example is alumnus Evan Freimuth, who founded Venture Wisconsin, an online service dedicated to promoting businesses and events in the Fox Valley.

Freimuth said when he participated in the 2016 Elevator Pitch Contest, his business plan for Venture Wisconsin was rough.

“My idea was too broad and untested, which caused me trouble in the pitch,” Freimuth said. “When I moved on to the Business Model Competition, the stakes were higher, and the crowd and prospect of a longer pitch was much more intimidating. I killed the opening, the whole crowd laughed at my joke, and then it all fell apart. I spent a minute in silence before bringing it back together.”

Freimuth said he learned a lot from the experience, and it inspired him to get more serious about his business plan.

“After that, I applied for the accelerator program with the [Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation] and connected with a mentor in Green Bay …” Freimuth said. “This was all about 18 months ago, and since then I’ve made over 50 videos, a few videos receiving over 20,000 views. Our audience had grown from nothing at the time to 5,000 people across different platforms.”

Another example is Abbie Merrill, who placed second and won $10,000 in the 2016 Business Model Contest with her idea for In Our Hands, an app that allows people to stay informed on upcoming or passed legislature and contact their representatives.

Merrill said participating in the Elevator Pitch Contest earlier that year helped her to identify and address shortcomings in her original plan.

“The reason I didn’t win the pitch contest was that I didn’t have a developer for my app, and when the Business Model Contest rolled around, I had found someone to develop my app,” Abbie said. “This allowed me to have more confidence and assurance, knowing that I had a more solid plan for the judges to get on board with.”

Merrill said her advice to students who are considering competing in the competition is to take the leap.

“Whatever fear or reasons that you have created in your head from stopping you from entering the contest, take a step back and realize that if you already have an idea, there should be nothing stopping you,”

Merrill said. “When you create an idea, it is your duty to yourself to follow through because you have the spirit of someone who wants to create and change … When you put yourself out there to be judged, you never know who is going to be there and they just might see your idea too.”